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Post Production

NAB 2016 Wrap-up. Winners, Losers, Fun and … Meh.

This NAB felt like a lot better NAB than most but it wasn’t because of the gear and the tech

Another NAB is well in the past and as I was thinking about what I saw at NAB 2016 and what might make up a winner or a loser there were very few things that really stood out in my head. Unlike some previous years this NAB didn’t overwhelm attendees (especially those of us in post-production) with tons of new stuff, which might be a good thing. While NAB is always an enjoyable experience it is usually beyond exhaustive but for some reason this year it didn’t feel that way. And that made for one big winner.

Winners

Editors doing color work

If PVC gave out NAB awards like half the other sites out there in our space my vote for best of show would have gone to the Tangent Ripple.

Despite my finger being in front of the lens, the Tangent Ripple was my favorite thing at the show. And new things will support it like Color Finale.
Despite my finger being in front of the lens, the Tangent Ripple was my favorite thing at the show. And new things will support it like Color Finale.

This little device has been a long time coming. There will be a new wave of applications that will support grading surfaces once the Ripple gets out in the market and editors everywhere will finally get a feel of what it’s like to use dials and trackerballs for color adjustments … that is if …

Those in the target market are willing to spend $350 on a control surface. I think Tangent will sell a lot of Ripples but if it isn’t successful I think we can blame the current market where we live in a world where everyone seems to want everything for free. $350 isn’t much to pay for a color grading surface but for many $350 will be a huge price for something they won’t use very often.

Event videographers and producers

If there was one product that was closest to being a “revolutionary” product that came out of the blue it’s the Blackmagic Duplicator 4K. The idea of being able to hand a video copy of a live performance over to those attendees (for a fee most likely) without them having to wait days or weeks after the event for a DVD or a YouTube upload is a very smart play. At $1,995 it’s easily affordable to those doing regular event work and using H.265 as its recording format means it is set up for the future more than today.

That's a lot of copies of an event you can make with lots of Duplicator 4Ks daisy chained together.
That’s a lot of copies of an event you can make with lots of Duplicator 4Ks daisy chained together.

BMD is no stranger to delivering things on SD cards as their NAB press materials have been delivered that way for years. As proof of the Duplicator’s use case they were able to hand their NAB 2016 press conference over to attendees right after the event. You just have to make sure your computer will play H.265.

Currently that might be a bit of a challenge for those grandparents who want to walk away from the recital with a copy of the dance but that’ll change in time.

brian-nathan-nab

Another thing I noticed that made me think of event videographers was the amount of smaller, fixed-lens and non-DSLR cameras that people were using to cover the show. There was a time when DSLRs were everywhere but I didn’t see nearly as many this year. At left is PVC’s Brian Hallett and Nathan Thompson using an URSA Mini to cover the BMD press conference. Couple the Mini with other “affordable” small cameras and we might be entering a new wave of covering events with a quality and technique that DSLRs didn’t easily allow.

More than ever now is a good time to be in event videography.

Diversification

If you’re a company that can diversify with good products you’re setting yourself up well for the future of the media creation business. For some that means mergers, for others that means products. Quantel and Snell finally became one, rebranding for their first NAB as SAM. Cameras went industrial and video went IP. GoPro went drones and apps. Filmlight went Mac and free. Flanders Scientific is going beyond monitors with hardware and cases, see that in our FSI booth tour.

RED seemed to have more outside vendors in their booth than the entire plug-in pavilion.

Ride sharing services

2016 was the first NAB year that Uber and Lyft have been allowed to provide rides in Las Vegas. I hadn’t used either before NAB 2016 but it was a trip toward downtown that sold me. What was usually a $25 + taxi ride was under $10 for my first Uber ride. That was great. All the hotels seemed to provide a designed ride-sharing pickup location and the two hotels I used had easy access to it. An Uber or Lift ride was never more than just a few minutes away and often at the hotels it was less that one minute. I never took a single cab ride at NAB 2016.

I had one Uber ride where the driver offered up bottled water, mints and gum. Another was in a Cadillac. 

Losers

NLEs

The non-linear edition application is still an important part of NAB and media creation in general but NAB 2016 seemed to be the first year that I remember that is was the least important kid on the block, often having to deal with issues not of the NLE’s making.

We will get an update to Adobe Premiere Pro CC that is going to be a big update with some seminal features but several years into the Creative Cloud this is what we expect from Adobe at NAB.

Avid had a big keynote event the Saturday before NAB began at their own little trade show Avid Connect but that keynote didn’t mention the words media and composer together at the same time. That was a surprise to many of us.

The same thing happened the next day.

I was told that no one should read anything into the lack of Avid Media Composer talk at the Avid NAB event (it was featured at the NAB booth showing some upcoming features like audio ducking) but since there was Adobe Premiere talk it was that Media Composer silence that seemed to speak volumes to many editors at NAB.

The FCP Exchange event featured a surprise from Apple. No it wasn’t an update to Final Cut Pro X but rather a requirement of those attending the Apple marketing presentation to sign an NDA. Read into that what you will. While it’s great to see Apple communicating with customers it meant there was some ill will by those who were turned away when the presentation was over capacity and that meant a lot of people were talking about not seeing the presentation. As for those who saw the presentation itself … they couldn’t talk about it anyway because of the NDA.

I walked by the Autodesk booth several times during the week and didn’t see or hear a peep about Smoke for Mac. No presentations that I saw and no Smoke for Mac demo pod. I finally asked about it and was told that it is alive but efforts were put toward the new Flame for Mac release instead.

I didn't know Autodesk had any kind of review and approval service but I did know they have Smoke for Mac, but wasn't at NAB 2016.
I didn’t know Autodesk had any kind of review and approval service but I did know they have Smoke for Mac, but wasn’t at NAB 2016.

Near the end of the week I stepped into the Grass Valley booth to get a demo of Edius as I had never seen it up close. I told the demo guy I was a longtime editor of all the other NLEs and just wanted to see what Edius had to offer. While it was a great demo (Edius has a lot of great features) it was a very defensive demo artist who basically insisted I was nuts to use anything else! I don’t know if Edius really doesn’t have Dynamic Trimming or if I just wasn’t explaining it properly to the demo guy but I came away with the impression that is does not and why in the world would anyone editor in their right mind want to do that anyway! Edius must have some users out there, otherwise I don’t think Bella would make a keyboard for it.

But the real loser of the NLEs was that there didn’t seem to be nearly as many NLEs running as you walked the South Hall. Sure some booths had to have editing tools running but it seemed to be less important and less overall than in the past.

On the other hand there was Resolve.

Come to think of it maybe that makes Resolve a winner. Or maybe it was more prevalent because it’s free.

VR

Of course there was VR. Since 3D TV has died everyone expected VR to be the big thing at NAB 2016.

I’m sure many will disagree with me calling Virtual Reality a loser at NAB 2016 (hell, our own Neil Smith made many 360 reports from the floor) but if you were to believe the pre-NAB hype then VR would have been everywhere. Walking the South (and sometimes Central) Hall VR wasn’t much anywhere at all. I would have expected swag VR smartphone cardboard holders being handed out like mints and hand sanitizer. I saw none of that and few full VR goggles being used either. If you hit the VR Pavilion in the North Hall you might have seen a batch of people in VR headsets but boy did they look dorky.

The people who will benefit the most if VR ever goes mainstream will be good pickpockets.

The homeless

Anyone who has gone to Vegas for NAB and walked around the city has seen homeless begging for money (and no, I’m not calling the homeless losers). I thought it seemed like there were a lot more homeless this year after an evening out but by the end of the week I had heard several other attendees talking about the same thing. It wasn’t just the usual single person sitting on a pedestrian bridge with a sign looking for change. There seemed to be a lot more homeless people just sleeping out on the street than I had ever seen before. And it was the family with an infant begging out in front of the Bellagio fountains that really got to me.

I had no idea that the show was involved in any sort of programs to help Vegas’ homeless population. I hope they do that again next year and advertise it a bit more, I bet they would get a lot of folks attending to help make those bags.

Push

Thunderbolt 3

Sure we all want the speed and ease of connection of Thunderbolt 3 but while there where Thunderbolt 3 products to be seen and touched on the show floor it’s still a connection in flux. As of this writing there are very few Thunderbolt 3 products out there shipping. The barometer of all things shipping, B&H Photo Video, shows virtually no Thunderbolt 3 products available unless they are PCs with the connectivity.

That doesn’t make there weren’t Thunderbolt 3 products to show. Most all the major drive manufacturers were showing Thunderbolt 3 products even if they weren’t shipping. CalDigit, AKiTiO, G-Tech, Lacie, Promise and Sonnett to name a few all had Thunderbolt 3 drives and arrays in their booths but I don’t think you could buy any of them that week except for maybe AKiTiO. The most needed Thunderbolt 3 thing of the bunch is a Thunderbolt 3 to 2 adapter and those still aren’t shipping either (as of this writing).

Everyone was praising the PC industry for beating Apple to market with new technology as quite a few PC are now shipping with Thunderbolt 3 (the Dell Precision 5510 included) on-board but without products to use that lighting fast port it’s pretty useless. Even the now shipping Dell Thunderbolt 3 Dock doesn’t have more than one Thunderbolt 3 port or any Thunderbolt 2 ports.

A Thunderbolt 3 CFast card reader? Yes please but it has to ship and things have to support it first.
A Thunderbolt 3 CFast card reader? Yes please but it has to ship and things have to support it first.
An SSD Thunderbolt 3 drive running at over 2000 MB per seconds? Yes again please.
An SSD Thunderbolt 3 drive running at over 2000 MB per seconds? Yes again please.

To make matters even worse some of these new PCs with Thunderbolt 3 aren’t even utilizing the full Thunderbolt 3 bus (according to some drive makers) so the data rate they sustain isn’t near the maximum of Thunderbolt 3. Geeze.

Let’s hope Apple has some Thunderbolt 3 hardware for us soon or the PC market is going to be the one driving this technology which is unusual as Apple usually adds this kind of stuff first.

HDR

HDR was around last year but NAB 2016 should have been HDR’s banner year. While HDR was everywhere it still felt very meh to a lot of people attending. There are lots of different ways to grade and display HDR so no real “standards” as of yet as lots of people showed HDR in lots of different ways at NAB 2016. This HDR article from Alexis Van Hurkman is the best read on the subject in general but for summing up HDR at NAB my experience came on the last day in the Christie booth. They had an HDR demo in a very comfy little theatre that showed a few different HDR clips. The most impressive part of their HDR demo was when they showed the true black that HDR can display compared to what is really dark gray for conventional screening technology.

When the Christie demo showed only full black on the screen the room was probably the single darkest room I have ever experienced. And this wasn’t the projector turned off but rather projecting black. Then they showed a couple of examples of both HDR televisions programming and the Fury Road trailer in HDR. It all did look very good and I can’t imagine why I would ever opt for non-HDR when I had the option of HDR. But my initial reaction was … meh. Again.

I can’t really articulate why HDR again seemed more meh than wow for me again this year but Art Adams’ thoughts on HDR at NAB sums it up well. The side-by-side HDR to non-HDR demos always seem to be the best but when you have to show side-by-side to see something’s true benefit then it might not be as beneficial as your marketing says it is.

But the biggest winner this year?

Fun

For some reason this year at NAB seemed more fun than most any in the past that I can remember.

I arrived in Vegas earlier than ever:

And while it started off badly:

It ended with the most fun I’ve never had in Vegas:

The Alpha Romeo 4C Spider is a great driver's car, and I drove it all over and around Vegas for a day.
The Alpha Romeo 4C Spider is a great driver’s car, and I drove it all over and around Vegas for a day.

I taught one of the bigger sessions I’ve ever done:

Met some great people at the Post|Production World Conference:

And finally got to see a Las Vegas show:

The Cirque Du Soleil show O was a amazing spectacle and highly recommend.
The Cirque Du Soleil show O was a amazing spectacle and highly recommend.

It seemed that this year there were less expectations out of the week than ever before. Maybe all the manufacturers knew there were no revolutionary product announcements at stake and that put all of their people at ease. Most people were happy to chat about whatever and not always pitching their latest wares with laser focus. Parties seemed more laid back and dare I say it, quieter than they have been in the past. And despite being in Vegas for a lot longer than I would ever want to be there I just wasn’t nearly as tired as I usually am despite walking just as much according to my FitBit and staying up just as late according to my alarm clock. I hope that repeats for NAB 2017.

DSC08206
Go ahead and mark your calendars for NAB 2017.

 

 

 


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PVC Staff
Scott Simmons was born in rural West Tennessee and didn't really realize that movies and tv had to be made by actual people until he went to college. After getting degrees in both Television Production…
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